The distinctly Christian understanding of marriage comes out in three aspects: permanence, equality, and fidelity.
In his earthly life, as Jesus taught his disciples about virtue, they were rightly astounded. In Matthew 19, their response to his teachings is astonishment and the question, “Who then can be saved?” (Matt 19:25). Jesus’ answer to this question should initially terrify us: “With men, this is impossible . . .” Impossible! If it is impossible for us to live a virtuous life, if it is impossible for us to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48), then what is the point?
Formation for the sacrament begins long before an engaged couple shows up in the pastor’s office. In fact, if we think in terms of “remote, proximate, and immediate [formation]” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio [Apostolic Exhortation on the Family, 1981], 66), we enter a school of marriage the moment we leave the womb.
Salvation, according to Catholic teaching, is an entirely gratuitous gift of grace from God. We can’t do it on our own.
“The Cross and nails of the Son were also those of His Mother; with Christ crucified the Mother was also crucified.” — St. Augustine